Focus Stacking – A Quick Guide for Product Photography

The concept of focus stacking is one that people new to product photography may not know much about or have any experience of. It may also seem somewhat complicated and confusing but fortunately, there are some simple methods you can follow to make the most of this technique.

What is focus stacking?

Focus stacking is the process whereby a photographer takes a series of photographs at different focal positions. These images are then combined using editing software to create one single image that has a far greater depth of field than a single image would get. This is particularly useful for macro photography, as required in jewellery photography.

What you need to do

There are plenty of good in-depth guides out there about how to work with focus stacking, but as a brief example for macro photography, the process used by product photography professionals would be as follows:

  1. Ensure that the camera is placed on a tripod that is stable and secure
  2. Make sure the subject is framed correctly and everything in the shot is set up how you want it
  3. Decide on the exposure required for the product and make sure that the camera is set up as manual and not automatic. This means the exposure will be constant throughout the different images you will take
  4. To start with, check the camera is on Live View and the focus of the camera on the closest object that you wish to be in focus. After this, turn to manual focus, so that you can perfect the sharpness if further tweaks are required.
  5. Take the photograph
  6. Whilst making sure you don’t move the camera at all or adjust settings, change the focus point to slightly further away from the camera lens.
  7. Repeat process 6 until you’re happy, which can be anywhere from a handful of images to 20 or 30+

What’s next?

Once you have taken the images, it is then time to stack them up using photo editing software such as photoshop. Fortunately, there are some fantastic guides out there on how to do this, so we won’t list it all here. Follow the guidelines for the specific software you use and after some practice, you will quickly get the hang of it.

There is an array of software out there, ranging from the very expensive to some fantastic cheap version that still helps you get creative and improve your product photographs. Take the time to research what is best for you and what features each one have.

Why use focus stacking?

The simple answer is that as a product photography expert, it is your job to get the best, the sharpest photographs possible for your clients. This is of particular importance when working with such fine detail as required in jewellery photography and focus stacking is a way of achieving this.

As with all forms of editing, you should ensure you have the best possible photographs to start with, so don’t just think you can fix every issue in the editing phase because you simply won’t get great results. The very best product photographers achieve results through careful preparation, dedication to taking fantastic shots and using editing software to build on these processes.